Sony Wh-1000xm3 : the New Reference in Noise Cancelling Headphones


Sony has been branding Bose for years to create the ultimate noise-cancelling headphones. He finally succeeded with the WH-1000XM3. The engineers of the Japanese brand have corrected all the defects we pointed out in its predecessor, the WH-1000MX2. The tariff positioning has not changed, so we are still on a premium tariff of 379.99 euros at the launch.

Design: more comfort

The main design evolution concerns the shape of the headband and the padding of the earpieces. The headband is now tighter and the helmet has lost 20 grams. The ear padding is also a little softer. The end result is a helmet that is significantly more comfortable than its predecessor. Of course, fatigue and a feeling of pressure is felt after a (long) while, but the 1000XM3 is still one of the most comfortable closed helmets we’ve tried.


 

The BoseQuietComfort 35 IIis consistently lighter at 235 grams versus 254 grams for this model. But Sony is now neck and neck in terms of comfort, which was one of the benefits of Bose.

There are a few other cosmetic changes. The outer finish of the earcups, where the touch controls are located, is smoother. And the carrying case is slightly different with a slot for the short USB-C cable as well as the included headset cable. It can indeed be used in wired mode, for example in airplanes, and the performance is just as excellent.  

The other big change is that Sony has switched from Micro-USB charging to USB-C charging. This has led to the introduction of a new quick charge feature that gives you 5 hours of use after 10 minutes of charging. That’s pretty impressive. And the 30 hours of Battery Life at moderate volume levels are also very good (the QC35 II offers about 20 hours of battery life), although some helmets now manage to go up to 40 hours.


 

To finish on the design, note that the brand has kept the tactile controls of the previous model and that’s fine, as Sony is one of the few manufacturers to master this type of controls perfectly. For example, simply slide your finger up or down to raise or lower the sound, left or right to return to the previous song or skip to the next, and press twice in a row to pause or play the music. It works every time and it’s very intuitive.

Finally, we won’t linger on the pairing procedure, very simple (you have to keep the on/off button pressed at startup to start pairing), or the quality of the Bluetooth transmission (4.2 unfortunately, but LDAC on the other hand so Hi-Res), very solid and inducing little latency. Please note that an option in the mobile application accompanying this headset allows you to give priority to the stability of the Bluetooth signal (to the detriment of the sound) if the situation requires it. We regret however that it is imperative to use this mode to touch the settings in the application, as well as the impossibility to connect two sources at the same time, it is a bit anachronistic and surprising for a helmet of this temperament. 

Sound and noise reduction the top of the top

Sony told us that this model has the same speakers as their excellent MDR-1AM2 headphones. For us, the sound is better than the Bose QC 35 II, more natural, slightly better defined, clearer and with more powerful bass. Overall, the sound is very clean, clearer than the previous model and very (even too) warm.

We have entrusted it to the expert ears of Steve Guttenberg, our audiophile specialist who is not generally tender. But he found many qualities in the WH-1000XM3: beautiful, warm highs, natural midrange and deep but well-defined bass. Signal processing and noise reduction chips are new. According to Sony, the QN1 noise reduction HD processor is four times more powerful than its predecessor, but ” also offers amazing sound quality with 32-bit audio signal processing and the combination of DAC and amplifier functionality. »


 

We haven’t seen as dramatic an improvement in performance as Sony suggests. However, based on our testing, it’s clear that the WH-1000XM3 is now up to, and probably surpasses, Bose’s noise reduction We tried it in the subway, the plane, the noisy streets of New York and Paris where we could appreciate its efficiency. In terms of audio quality we also note a fine but not negligible improvement. The 1000X have always been very “bassy”headphones, with trebles too low for our taste, which gave the impression of a slightly “muffled” sound.

This is one of the reasons why we preferred Bose QC35. But Sony has reworked a little bit the treble which is more present now. This being said, the sound can still be a little“muffled”with the songs mixed a little too low, in general the followers of the neutrality of the sound will still find it much too warm, know then that an equalizer is available in the mobile application Headphones Connect of Sony, even if we advise you to use the one of your audio player in priority to keep the mode of priority to the quality of the sound in the application. In fact, when the headphones are turned down slightly on the bass and low-midrange, the sound is much better according to our tests. So that’s what we advise you to do.

Like its predecessor, the headphones feature adaptive noise reduction, air pressure optimization, ambient sound control, equalizer and surround sound position control. As before, the functions are intended to help better adapt the sound to the environment. The air pressure optimizer, designed for aircraft use, is currently specific to this helmet and the WH-1000MX2. Sony’s mobile application allows you to fine-tune the settings for all these functions.


 

As we said, the noise reduction is excellent, but it still tends to alter the signature of the headphones, a classic of this type of system. When you mute it, the sound becomes much less warm and flatter, which means that, if you have corrected the sound equalization in noise reduction mode as we have advised, you will have to go back to your EQ . 

Functions that make the difference

Some people will appreciate all the features and settings of the WH-1000XM3, but they are also a bit confusing and some of them seem frankly superfluous. For example, Sony’s “surround” sound modes seemed to us irrelevant. None of them seemed to improve the spatialization of sound. Worse, some were clearly altering it.


 

These minor grievances aside, we were pleased to see that Sony had retained one of the best extras: the ability to mute the music and hear the outside world simply by placing your hand on the right earpiece. Once you have finished listening to the person you are talking to, simply remove your hand and the music resumes at its previous volume, while the noise reduction resumes.

Another practical detail to note is that you can now customize the auto power off function to keep the headphones on at all times, making it possible to use the noise reduction function even when you’re not listening to music. Convenient for sleeping on an airplane. All these little extras contribute to the great comfort of use provided by the 1000XM3, and allow it, apart from considerations of its excellent audio quality, noise reduction or comfort, to stand out once again on the market. 

Finally, we were a bit critical of the hands-free performance of the previous 1000X models. For the WH-1000XM3, Sony engineers opted for a new multi-microphone system that filters out background noise while picking up voice during calls. We made several phone calls and the performance of the helmet has improved to the point where it has become more of a strength than a weakness. 


 

Conclusion

The Sony WH-1000XM3 is a premium noise-reduction headphone, the best of the moment in fact. And while it’s not a significant improvement over its predecessor in terms of performance, it’s much more comfortable to wear and adds a little more clarity and clarity to an already great Sound quality while still maintaining a boosted bass. The Bose QuietComfort 35 II remains excellent. But until Bose updates it, the Sony WH-1000XM3 is the best noise-cancelling headphones on the market, whether for its superb sound quality, effective noise reduction or extremely satisfying comfort.

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